Yes, the one in the lion’s den…
Daniel is a prophet of God who not only has visions from God, God has gifted him with abilities to interpret other people’s visions and dreams with understanding and wisdom. All this is from God to protect his people while in captivity by the Babylonians who took them away from the life they once lived. God went with them.
Images generated by the book of Daniel have been percolating through the daily experiences of the people of God for well over two thousand years now, producing a richly aromatic brew stimulating God’s people to obey and trust their sovereign God.
Daniel teaches us that obedience to God in the pressures and stresses of day-by-day living and trust in God’s ways in the large sweep of history are always at risk, but especially in times of suffering and persecution. Obedience to God is difficult when we are bullied into compliance to the God-ignoring culture out of sheer survival. Trust in God is likewise at risk of being abandoned in favor of the glamorous seductions of might and size.
According to Eugene Peterson, Introduction to Daniel, The Message: “Daniel was written out of just such times. There was little or no observable evidence in the circumstances to commend against-the-stream obedience or overarching trust. But Daniel’s stories and visions have supplied what that society did not—could not—give. Century after century, Daniel has shot adrenaline into the veins of God-obedience and put backbone into God-trust.”
Daniel is composed of stories and visions equally. “The stories tell of souls living faithfully in obedience to God in a time of adversity. The visions are wide-screen renditions of God sovereignty worked out among nations who couldn’t care less about him. Six soul stories, four sovereignty visions.” (Peterson)
“The six soul-surviving stories nourish a commitment to integrity and perseverance right now. Very few of us live in settings congenial to God-loyalty and among people who affirm a costly discipleship Hardly a day goes by that we do not have to choose between compliance to what is expedient and loyalty to our Lord. the stories keep us alert to what is at stake day by day, hour by hour.” (Peterson)
“The four visions of God history-saving ways nourish hope in God during times when world events seem to put God in eclipse. The visions are difficult to understand, written as they are in a deliberately cryptic style (apocalyptic).” (Peterson)
“From time to time they have been subjected to intense study and explanation. But for the first reading, perhaps it is better simply to let the strange symbolic figures give witness to the large historical truth that eclipses the daily accumulation of historical facts reported by our news media, namely, that God is sovereign. In the course of all the noise and shuffling, strutting and posing, of arrogant rulers and nations that we call history, with the consequent troubles to us all, God is serenely sovereign; we can trust him to bring all things and people under his rule.” (Peterson)
“There are always some of us who want to concentrate on the soul, and others of us who want to deal with the big issues of history. Daniel is one of our primary documents for keeping it all together—the personal and the political, the present and the future, the soul and society.” (Peterson)
I’m excited to learn from Daniel who dared to stand firm in his faith of God. This young man was thoroughly convinced God was sovereign and eternally in control. I’m expectant to hear from God, going beyond what we first learned in our Sunday School classes of long ago that only touched the surface of the power of God.
Stay focused on God in Daniel and his friends for that is the greater story of truth. Daniel wouldn’t want it any other way!
Daniel 1, The Message
Daniel Was Gifted by God
1-2 It was the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon declared war on Jerusalem and besieged the city. The Master handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the furnishings from the Temple of God. Nebuchadnezzar took king and furnishings to the country of Babylon, the ancient Shinar. He put the furnishings in the sacred treasury.
3-5 The king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility—young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens!—and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling. The king then ordered that they be served from the same menu as the royal table—the best food, the finest wine. After three years of training they would be given positions in the king’s court.
6-7 Four young men from Judah—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—were among those selected. The head of the palace staff gave them Babylonian names: Daniel was named Belteshazzar, Hananiah was named Shadrach, Mishael was named Meshach, Azariah was named Abednego.
8-10 But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet. The head of the palace staff, by God’s grace, liked Daniel, but he warned him, “I’m afraid of what my master the king will do. He is the one who assigned this diet and if he sees that you are not as healthy as the rest, he’ll have my head!”
11-13 But Daniel appealed to a steward who had been assigned by the head of the palace staff to be in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see.”
14-16 The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables.
17-19 God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life. In addition, Daniel was gifted in understanding all sorts of visions and dreams. At the end of the time set by the king for their training, the head of the royal staff brought them in to Nebuchadnezzar. When the king interviewed them, he found them far superior to all the other young men. None were a match for Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
19-20 And so they took their place in the king’s service. Whenever the king consulted them on anything, on books or on life, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom put together.
21 Daniel continued in the king’s service until the first year in the reign of King Cyrus.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
So far, so good! These young men of God dare to cling to God and trust in His ways.
Interesting to note:
- No matter how anyone viewed the fall of Jerusalem, the idols seemed to have won; actually, the Lord won the victory! He kept his covenant with Israel—he fulfilled his promises.
- Daniel and his three friends seem to have been taken in 605 B.C., when they were probably fifteen or sixteen years old.
- The majority of God’s people have not always followed the Lord and kept His commandments. Always the “faithful remnant” within the Jewish nation has come through the trials and judgments to maintain the divine covenant and make a new beginning. Daniel is different. Daniel is one of the faithful remnant.
- Daniel could have accepted his new society—but he did not. God was with Daniel.
- The name of the true and living God in each of the names of these young men was replaced by the names of the false gods of Babylon; but would we expect unbelievers to do anything else?
Daniel teaches us how to respond when faced with oppression:
- The second step was to be gracious toward those in authority. (Remember the story of Joseph?)
- The first step for these young men in solving their problem and being transformers was giving themselves wholly to the Lord. Daniel’s heart—the totality of his being—belonged to God, as did the hearts of his friends. (See Romans 12 for us)
- Convictions sometimes require creative negotiations led by God’s wisdom. Daniel and his friends were courteous and didn’t try to get others into trouble. They had a meek and quiet spirit. They saw the challenge as an opportunity to prove God and glorify His name.
Unconsciously directed by God, the attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion, and God did the rest.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way! God provides where He guides.
I will trust what you say and quickly obey with all that is in me! Even when it is hard. I know you will help me.
In Jesus Name, Amen